A news story developing over the last 24 hours had me write my MP again:

From: Rick Pali <rpali@alienshore.com>
To: Rob Nicholson <rob.nicholson.a1@parl.gc.ca>
Subject: Regarding the New Copyright Exception for Political Advertising
Date: October 9, 2014 at 10:32:30 PM EDT

Mr. Nicholson,

I was surprised to hear of the document drawn up by the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Shelly Glover, titled New Copyright Exception for Political Advertising.

I recall the spat with the CBC and CTV a few years back about political parties using footage from their news stories without explicit permission. Frankly, I thought it was all worked out and the use of their footage was covered under fair dealing.

In the document, I’m concerned with one item in the Analysis section:

User community may interpret the exception as supporting “political expression,” but will likely call for it to be broadened to include other political players.

I’m concerned because this seems to call out a possible outcome, and the tone implies that the possibility against which a defence must be mounted because it must not be allowed to happen.

I’d put forth that the whole point of this copyright exception is certainly for free expression. If the Conservative party feels that fair dealing isn’t sufficient to allow the free expression to which it is entitled, why isn’t the fair dealing exception being adjusted to allow it? As it stands, the proposed exception will grant politicians a freedom that Canadians in general will not have.

Surely Canadians should enjoy the same freedoms to which the Conservative party feels it is entitled?


This whole issue gives me the heebie-jeebies. Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, suggests that their use of broadcast news footage should be covered under fair dealing. It doesn’t seem entirely clear cut, so I can understand that the Conservative party doesn’t want to get any egg on its face in the event that the news organizations mount a legal challenge over it. The logical course would be to clarify the issue in the Copyright Act, specifically regarding fair dealing. Instead, they’re crafting an exception limited to politicians or those seeking, but not yet possessing, political office.

My spidey-sense is telling me they’re up to something. It feels like they have something very specific in mind for which they want unambiguous permission, and that they don’t want the rest of us to have the same permission.

Hat tip to Michael Geist for his excellent work, as usual. If you’re not following his blog, you should.